I am a self professed theater geek. A “drama-rama”. Or, now, a “Gleek”. Fox’s new show, Glee, created by Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck), is my kind of dream show. It brings together all the clichés of high school life and makes the viewer care less that there are so many of them. There’s the shrewy cheerleader, the gay fashionista, the paraplegic outcast, the girl who loves herself but is unanimously hated by others, the jock hiding a secret passion, and the jock-ass. These stereotypes are brought together by a string of excellent songs, ranging from theater geek-tastic show tunes like “Mister Cellophane” from Chicago and “On My Own” from Les Miserables, to classic rock and roll tracks like “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, and contemporary pop like Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”. A little weird? Too musical for you? You won’t even notice.
Mr. Schuster (Matthew Morrison from the original Broadway cast of Hairspray) is a Spanish teacher struggling financially and being pushed by his wife to work as an accountant. His passion is teaching; he doesn’t care about money, yada yada yada… That storyline is admittedly the weakest part of the show, because, in real life, you may just have to take that job if it means you’ll be able to feed your family, no matter if you love teaching or dancing or whatever you please. After the Glee Club president is fired, he decides to take it up himself, and is met with dismay from most of his co-workers. “High school is a cast system. You have your jocks, cheerleaders, cool kids-they’re all up at the penthouse. The nerds…are all on the first floor,” the cheer coach says venomously. Schuster asks, “And the Glee kids?” “Sub-basement.”
Well, a few kids do join. Rachel Berry (Lea Michele from Spring Awakening) has a great amount of talent. Only, no one could care less. She’s a huge star in her mind, but bragging about it comes with consequences: being one of the most reviled kids in the school. But there is sweetness about her, even if she says that “the most important thing these days is fame and nobody is just going to hand it to you”.
Finn (Corey Monteith), the football quarterback is one of those guys who will gladly drop you into a dumpster. Well, at least until he looks inside of himself and realizes that he doesn’t want to be that kind of guy. Hiding away from the other football players is a really good voice. He sings “I Can’t Fight (This Feeling Anymore)” a capella in the shower while Mr. Schuster is listening. And to get him to join Glee Club he…blackmails him. He does so by pretending to find pot in his locker and telling him that if he doesn’t join, he’ll have to serve 12 weeks of detention. What does he do? He joins and sings a duet with Rachel from Grease, entitled “You’re the One That I Want”.
Other characters inhabit the main clichés and are warm and welcome throughout the show. The main goal of the Glee Club is to win the Nationals. Jayma Mays, who plays the timid Emma Pillsbury, the guidance counselor with OCD, and she plays her character with perfection. She, much like Charlie Brown for the Little Red Headed Girl (only reverse the situation), has unrequited feelings for Will Schuster. Jane Lynch is perfect as the vicious Cheerios coach, nailing every one of her lines with sardonicism that is unmatched in the world of comediennes.
The musical performances are really quite spectacular. It is a very nice way to bring classic rock standards and famous shows tunes and have them exposed to a new kind of audience. “Don’t Stop Believin’” is a showstopper and everyone who sings has a really great voice.
This is a very fun show and I hope that the rest of the season is an exciting and spellbinding as the first episode. It is really quite a gem in a series of rather dull shows that revolve around crime and hospitals (which seem to be making a comeback).